Thursday, June 5, 2014

May Mashers

AL Player of the Month Edwin Encarnacion had a month for the ages 
May was a month of impressive home run performances throughout baseball. Whereas April was dominated by Jose Abreu's awesome debut, Albert Pujols' return to glory and Troy Tulowitzki's torrid start, May saw different players shine:

Edwin Encarnacion went berserk, smashing 16 home runs to tie Mickey Mantle's league record for the month (set in 1956) and fall one short of Barry Bonds' record, set during his suspicious 73-homer barrage in 2001. Encarnacion had five multi-home run games in one of the best May performances of all-time (more on that to come), helping Toronto go 21-9 during the month thanks to his 33 RBI, 26 runs scored and 1.132 OPS (fueled largely by his .763 slugging percentage). A dozen of those homers came during the two-week stretch from May 15th through the 29th, a 14-game span in which he knocked in 21 runs and Toronto lost only twice. Granted, he had a good deal of help from Jose Bautista (.324/.417/.532 with 22 RBI), but Encarnacion's elite power helped the Blue Jays surge to the top of a surprisingly winnable AL East.

Miguel Cabrera, the two-time defending AL MVP, was surprisingly mortal in April, hitting just two homers and batting .277/.320/.415, well below his established standards. He was back to his old self in May, clubbing 8 home runs, 11 doubles, and 41 hits as he batted a scintillating .380/.423/.704 for the month. All those base knocks led to lots of RBI for Cabrera, who recorded at least one ribbie in 19 of Detroit's 29 games and knocked in 34 runs overall, moving him to within three of Nelson Cruz's major league leading 52.

Speaking of Cruz, the formerly PED-tainted outfielder/DH had a fantastic month in his own right. Cruz continued to lay waste to major league pitching following his strong April, doing deep 13 times in May to give him 20 on the season, most in the bigs. He also plated 27 runs, scored 21, clubbed 8 doubles, and batted .339/.388/.748. The Orioles haven't been hitting this year, so it's a good thing they landed Cruz late in the offseason. Without him to carry their offense, they'd be dead last in the AL East.

May was George Springer's first full month in the major leagues, and the Astros rookie made quite an impression, hitting .294/.385/.647 with 10 bombs and 25 RBI. It took the slow-starting Springer 20 games and 87 plate appearances to launch his first major league home run, which happened on May 8th versus Detroit's Drew Smyly. That seemed to trigger a deluge, as he went yard nine more times--seven in a seven-game span from May 21st through the 29th. His middle of the order power in an otherwise weak lineup helped Houston post a winning record in May at 15-14.

Over in the National League, NL Player of the Month Yasiel Puig made lots of noise by batting .398 with an astronomical .492 OBP, both best in the Show. Puig piled up 43 hits, most in the league and setting a new Dodgers record for the month of May. He also topped the Circuit with 25 RBI, 19 extra base hits, 79 total bases, and his .731 slugging percentage. Puig reached base in all 28 games that month, getting at least one hit in 26 of them. His eight big flies tied Giancarlo Stanton for the league lead, and he added ten doubles as well. For now, Puig has surpassed the incomparable Mike Trout as the best player in baseball.

Victor Martinez was a beast in May, notching hits in 25 of 29 games last month, using 13 multi-hit efforts to pile up 42 base knocks. Of those 42 hits, 10 went for doubles and 9 cleared the fences, giving the Tigers DH an outstanding .699 slugging percentage. In addition to batting .372 and reaching base more than 43 percent of the time, he struck out only 10 times in 125 plate appearances. When V-Mart's locked in like that, he combines power with elite contact skills. At 35, the current AL batting leader is just as good as ever and forms a lethal tandem with Cabrera in the middle of Detroit's lineup.

Last but not least we have Brandon Moss, another fellow who drilled nine home runs in May. He also stroked eight doubles and two triples, which translates to a .684 slugging percentage. Moss also drove in 25 runs, 20 of which were accumulated in six games. Moss is quietly making a case for his first All-Star nod and is a big reason why Oakland has the best record in the American League.

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